MEPA Glossary: Key Terms & Definitions for Developers and Consultants

MEPA Key Terms & Definitions

Categorical Exclusion: A category of actions that do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment and which have been found to have no such effect in procedures adopted by a Federal agency in implementation of these regulations (Sec. 1508.4) and for which, therefore, neither an Environmental Assessment nor an Environmental Impact Statement is required. (40 CFR § 1508.1(d))

Cumulative Impact: The impact on the environment that results from the incremental impact of the action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions regardless of what agency (Federal or non-Federal) or person undertakes such other actions. Cumulative impacts can result from individually minor but collectively significant actions taking place over a period of time. (40 CFR § 1508.1(g))

Environment: The physical conditions that will be affected by a proposed action, including land, air, water, minerals, flora, fauna, ambient noise, and objects of historic or aesthetic significance. (Md. Code Ann., Nat. Res. § 1-301(b))

Environmental Assessment (EA): A concise public document for which a Federal agency is responsible that serves to briefly provide sufficient evidence and analysis for determining whether to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement or a Finding of No Significant Impact. (40 CFR § 1508.1(h))

Environmental Effects Report (EER): A report prepared by a state agency under MEPA to assess the environmental consequences of a proposed action and to consider ways to avoid, minimize, or mitigate any adverse effects. (Md. Code Ann., Nat. Res. § 1-303)

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS): A detailed written statement as required by section 102(2)(C) of NEPA, analyzing the environmental impacts of a proposed action, adverse effects of the project that cannot be avoided, alternative courses of action, short-term uses of the environment versus the maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity, and any irreversible and irretrievable commitment of resources. (40 CFR § 1508.1(i))

Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI): A document by a Federal agency briefly presenting the reasons why an action, not otherwise categorically excluded, will not have a significant effect on the human environment and for which an Environmental Impact Statement therefore will not be prepared. (40 CFR § 1508.1(l))

Human Environment: The natural and physical environment and the relationship of present and future generations of Americans with that environment. (40 CFR § 1508.1(m))

Lead Agency: The agency or agencies preparing or having taken primary responsibility for preparing an Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental Assessment. (40 CFR § 1508.1(o))

Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR): The state agency responsible for managing Maryland's natural resources and administering certain aspects of MEPA. (Md. Code Ann., Nat. Res. § 1-101)

Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE): The state agency responsible for protecting and restoring the environment and public health in Maryland, including enforcing environmental laws and regulations and administering certain aspects of MEPA. (Md. Code Ann., Envir. § 1-101)

Mitigation: Measures taken to avoid, minimize, rectify, reduce, or compensate for the impact of a potentially adverse environmental action. (40 CFR § 1508.1(s))

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): The federal law that established a national policy promoting the enhancement of the environment and also established the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). (42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4347)

Natural Resources: Land, fish, wildlife, biota, air, water, groundwater, drinking water supplies, and other such resources. (40 CFR § 1508.1(t))

No Action Alternative: The alternative where no action would occur. (40 CFR § 1502.14(d))

Notice of Intent (NOI): A notice that an Environmental Impact Statement will be prepared and considered. (40 CFR § 1508.1(u))

Permitting Agency: Any agency authorized by law to issue permits for projects in the State of Maryland. (Md. Code Ann., Nat. Res. § 1-301(d))

Proposed Action: A proposal made by a state agency that would constitute an action significantly affecting the quality of the environment under MEPA. (Md. Code Ann., Nat. Res. § 1-301(f))

Public Hearing: An opportunity for presentation of oral and written comments on an agency action that is open to the public. (40 CFR § 1506.6(c))

Record of Decision (ROD): A concise public record of the agency's decision on a proposed action for which an Environmental Impact Statement was prepared, which states the decision, identifies all alternatives considered, and states whether all practicable means to avoid or minimize environmental harm have been adopted. (40 CFR § 1505.2)

Scoping: An early and open process for determining the scope of issues to be addressed and for identifying the significant issues related to a proposed action. (40 CFR § 1501.9)

Significant Environmental Impact: Any substantial, and potentially adverse, impact on the environment resulting from an agency's proposed action. (Md. Code Ann., Nat. Res. § 1-301(g))

State Agency: Any department, board, commission, or agency of the State of Maryland. (Md. Code Ann., Nat. Res. § 1-301(h))

Threshold Determination: A formal agency finding under MEPA that a proposed action either will or will not have a significant environmental impact and, consequently, will or will not require the preparation of an Environmental Effects Report. (Md. Code Ann., Nat. Res. § 1-303)

Tiering: The coverage of general matters in broader Environmental Impact Statements or Environmental Assessments (such as national program or policy statements) with subsequent narrower statements or environmental analyses (such as regional or basin-wide program statements or ultimately site-specific statements) incorporating by reference the general discussions and concentrating solely on the issues specific to the statement subsequently prepared. (40 CFR § 1508.1(ff))

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